I have one child. It’s not by choice. I would have had more if my eggs had cooperated. Other moms have one child because, well, they chose to have one child. Whether by our own personal choice or biology’s limitations, we find ourselves at the same destination: single-child families. And that’s where people have opinions.
“He’ll be so lonely!”
“Don’t you want to give him a sibling?”
“Why don’t you adopt?”
“Ugh. It must be so easy to have just one! Want one of mine?”
These are all declarations that I and many other moms of one hear often. They’re insulting, ignorant, rude and hurtful – even if it is inadvertent. Strangers ask questions we don’t want to answer. Acquaintances make statements without knowing our stories. Even friends can unknowingly – or unthinkingly – drop a bomb now and then. So next time you run across one of the growing number of moms with one child, instead of even a seemingly innocent question or an uninformed judgment, maybe just offer a kind compliment instead.
9 Things to Never Say to a Mom of One
1. When are you going to give him/her a baby brother or sister?
The same day you realize my reproductive capabilities are of no concern to you. Maybe I don’t want a second child. Maybe I – as in my personal case – tried desperately to have another child but couldn’t. Maybe I’m days away from my third D&C and barely holding it together as I stand here talking to you, my high school classmate that I haven’t seen in 10 years. If we have another baby, you can read about it on Facebook. Until then, please don’t ask.
2. Don’t you want him to have a sibling?
First, I wanted another baby. Not just a sibling for my son. Sure, it would be great to see my little guy grow into his role as a big brother. But I also know that blood does not best friends guarantee. Some siblings are besties forever and others are a bitter rivalry from the time the cord is cut. All this question does is assert your belief that all children should have a sibling…and makes me feel horrible.
3. Why did you decide to have just one child?
Well, I didn’t. But since I don’t know you all that well – if I did, you’d know my story by now – I’ll spare you the gory details. And if I did decide to have one child, I’m pretty sure that’s a very, very personal decision that is really none of your business.
4. Have you thought about adoption?
Adoption? What is that? I’ve never heard of this adoption thing before! Please, tell me more. Sarcasm aside, adoption is a beautiful option for those who do pursue it and I fully support families who begin or grow through adoption (keep in mind, many adoptive parents are also parents of one. What?! Mind. Blown.). But whatever reasoning went into our decision not to go down this road is extremely personal and not open for discussion with anyone other than my significant other. So if that’s not you, then kindly MYOB.
5. Do you just have the one child?
My son is not “just” one child. He’s not less than. I’m not a mother by the skin of my teeth. Or balancing on the precipice of non-motherhood. There is no “just” when I fought biology with all my might to have this amazing little person in the first place. I don’t just have one child. I have one beautiful child. Plain and simple.
6. Your house must be so quiet and clean!
Oh, I’m sorry. You must have confused one with none. Because one child is still, well, a child. With toys. And noise. Like parents of two plus, we run the living room floor Lego gauntlet and wash crayon from the walls. Daniel Tiger is no less sing-y for one child than he is for four. And yogurt sticks? Don’t get me started on what they do to microfiber couches. So while we may not have the sibling giggles or the fighting, we do have a joyful noise (and mess).
7. Well, you never know! My friend’s cousin’s college roommate did 17 rounds of IVF and 6 months after they gave up trying, POOF, she was pregnant!
Stop. Please, don’t ever say this to anyone who has been through infertility – mom of one or otherwise. While I’m happy for your friend’s cousin’s roommate, that story is about as helpful as a stake to the heart. I don’t want to hear about other people’s success stories. They hurt. And if a mom is a mom of one by choice (a frequent variant of this statement for these moms is “You still have time!”), you’re basically saying she has made the wrong decision about stopping with one. Either way, please just keep those words in your mouth.
8. Aren’t you worried about him being selfish/spoiled?
BREAKING NEWS: Spoiled brat-itis can happen to anyone. Even children with lots and lots of siblings. In fact, multiple studies conducted over the past four decades have shown that single children are no more likely than those with siblings to show selfish/self-centered/spoiled personality traits. But that doesn’t make this myth any less hurtful. Every parent wants to raise a kind, caring and loving child. Including parents of one.
9. It’s so hard having [insert number more than one] kids! Sometimes I envy you.
Hold on. First, if this is a mom of one thanks to infertility, you might as well slap her. I would run back-to-back ultramarathons followed by a slide down a razorblade into a tub of monkey spit if it meant I could have “the work” of a second child. Go ahead, envy me. I’ll send some of my heartache your way. Second, whether by choice or not, a single child is not easy. There’s no sending him off to the backyard for hours of play with a sibling or two. There’s no one else there to answer the insistent “play with me!” requests. There’s no buddy in the backseat to sing with on long drives. Sure, there’s no fighting but there are also no heated games of Sneaky Snacky Squirrel. Or puppet show partners. Mommy friends and play dates can also be harder to come by as other moms often look for age mates for all their kids. I rarely can chill on the bench at the park because with no other kids in sight, guess who gets to be the monkey bar buddy? I do love the time we spend together playing games, doing puzzles and kicking a ball in the backyard but man, sometimes I envy those moms with their own little soccer team.